Sunday, July 31, 2005

Virtual society has few newcomers

Suveen K Sinha in New Delhi | August 01, 2005 10:16 IST

Try as it might, the Internet in India is failing to put on flab. Its usage has increased primarily in depth, to the extent that the word "netaholic" may soon find a place in the popular lingo.

The spread, however, is another story. Put simply, the growth of the Internet, which began in earnest about a decade ago, is driven more by an increase in use by those already hooked, rather than new additions to the virtual community.

According to a survey by JuxtConsult, a joint effort of Indicus Analytics and Webchutney, only 8 per cent of India's urban Internet users came in during the last one year. An overwhelming 80 per cent have been online for more than three years.

The survey, one of the largest of its kind, sampled more than 30,000 Internet users in April this year. In addition, there was a 10-city telephonic survey of over 3,000 people.

The survey found the Internet is being used by about 17.5 million urban Indians with some regularity, with another 5.2 million using it sparingly. This puts the Internet penetration in urban India at about 9 per cent. For all of India, assuming marginal usage in rural areas, the penetration level should be about 2 per cent.

In terms of the "depth" of usage, almost a third of the urban users are using it for more than three hours every day. About a third are using it throughout the day and another third logging on at least five times a day.

Advertisers will be happy to note that three out of four net users own an automobile and every second one has a credit card. However, only a fourth of of net users buys online and three-fourths do not like to pay bills online. Even so, that translates to 4.2 million online buyers.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The hottest things on the Net!

They are the hottest new things on the Net. And they are catching on like wildfire. The disruptive technology which powers them could dramatically alter the way we read, listen, express ourselves and even do business.

Wiki, Podcasting and Google Earth are things that are challenging the time-tested and established institutions such as newspapers, radio encyclopaedia and the Atlas.

Today, the Internet is a place where users are generating content -- text or audio -- writing and editing stories or creating and adding to encyclopaedias.

"It is being branded as the citizen's media that will ultimately empower the lowest common denominator," says Sanjay Trehan, head of broadband at Times Internet Ltd.

Agrees's head of new business Jasmeet Singh Gandhi: "Wiki reflects the power of the individual to publish content."

Here is Ice World's check list on the hot things to do on the World Wide Web.

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Highest-ever rain in India's history

Ramola Talwar Badam in Mumbai
July 27, 2005 13:34 IST

The highest-ever rainfall recorded in a single day in India shut down the financial hub of Mumbai, snapped communication lines, closed airports and forced thousands of people to sleep in their offices or walk home during the night, officials said Wednesday.

Troops were deployed after the sudden rains -- measuring up to 94.4 centimeters (37.1 inches) in one day in some areas of Mumbai -- stranded tens of thousands of people.

India's previous heaviest rainfall, recorded at Cherrapunji in the Meghalaya state, one of the rainiest places on Earth, was 83.82 centimeters (33 inches) on July 12, 1910, Sharma said.

"Most places in India don't receive this kind of rainfall in a year. This is the highest-ever recorded in India's history. We have to compare it with world records to find out if this was the highest in the world," RV Sharma, director of the meteorological department, told The Associated Press.

The All India Radio reported about 150,000 people were stranded in railway stations across Mumbai, India's main financial center.

Early Wednesday, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, the state's top elected official, called the army, navy and home guards to help with the relief effort.

"Inflatable rafts will be used to reach stranded people. Please try to stay where you are and don't leave your homes," he said.

Tens of thousands of people were stranded for hours on roads in Bombay, and its airport -- one of the busiest in the country -- was shut Tuesday evening. All incoming flights were diverted to New Delhi and other airports.


In the IT industry, women rock!

George Iype | July 27, 2005

The one area where India is way ahead of the United States is in the empowerment of women in the information technology services arena.

Compare figures from India's technology majors and IT industry bodies -- such as the National Association of Software and Services Companies -- and studies from the Information Technology Association of America to check this out.

The ratio of women in IT services in India is rising steadily, whereas the percentage of women IT workers in the US has been declining over the years.

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

How I made my 1st million: CEO

Sangeeta Singh | July 23, 2005

Sanjeev Bikhchandani, CEOWith a bachelors in Economics from St Stephen's, Delhi and a diploma in management from IIM (A) and a stint with advertising and GlaxoSmithkline (then HMM), Sanjeev Bikhchandani, co-founder and CEO, InfoEdge (India), better known by its Web site, is today sitting over a business worth Rs 45 crore (Rs 450 million) with 600 employees and 35 offices all over the country.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

ICTs to conserve medicinal plants in Ghana

George Owusu-Afriyie describes how BG-BASE, a database program designed to manage information on botanical collections, is helping to conserve medicinal plants in Ghana.

In Ghana, traditional healthcare practices rely almost entirely on herbal medicines. Even in urban areas where modern synthetic drugs are readily available, many people continue to use traditional herbal remedies as these are less expensive. However, the high demand for medicinal plants, which are collected from the wild, is gradually exhausting some local species populations.

Increasingly, herbalists are turning to botanic gardens with requests to harvest medicinal plants from their collections or to obtain information about threatened species. In Ghana, in response to the growing demand for medicinal plants in the 1990s, one of the country's most important botanic gardens, the Aburi Botanic Garden (ABG), decided to look into the possibility of setting up a medicinal plant project.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Which Indian IT company is the best?

Shobhana Subramanian | July 05, 2005

Think scale. That's the caption on Infosys' annual report. Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro would agree. All three have been growing relentlessly, cashing in on the outsourcing wave. TCS, which has been around for two decades, leads in revenues.

However, it will take a combination of a robust business model, savvy marketing skills and the ability to read the market to scale new heights. Which one has what it will take to succeed from here on?

Read Full Story @ Rediff

Monday, July 04, 2005

Icrisat benefits dryland farmers through ICT

NEW DELHI: Information and communication technology (ICT) mediated open distant learning (ODL) methods can create marvels when applied in right context. It can then really become information and communication technology for development (ICT4D).

An humble attempt by the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) in setting up of the Virtual Academy for the Semi-Arid Tropics (VASAT) has started transforming farming pattern and life styles of farmers in the world’s most drought-prone regions.

VASAT, an informal and virtual information, communication and capacity building coalition, caters to a cluster of 37 villages in Mahboobnagar district in Andhra Pradesh, where the literacy rate is as low as 35%. In fact, 75% of the workers are engaged in agriculture and allied activities. About 60% of the area is rain-fed, only 15% are under irrigation and remaining 25% are waste lands.

Another difficult area where VASAT is operating is in Khahe area near Sadore in Niger in West Africa. The principal technology in Kahe is the low frequency and solar-powered community FM radio stations linked to satellite-based digital radio system operated by the World Space Corporation.

A pilot hub established in Niger in partnership with the local federation of farmers operate a solar-powered low frequency FM radio station. The other pilot station is located about 300 km from Niamey in a village called Gabi. Radio Kahe has a 20-km radius, reaching about 4,000 village folks.

In the Niger VASAT project, a number of leading NGOs like Oxfam are associated. Regional organisations like ACMAD (for weather information) and the FirstVoice International (offering support for digital radio-based information delivery) are actively involved, alongwith partner institutions in the GEF-supported Desert Margin Program. The Niger National Council for Communication is a key partner in helping the roll out through community radio.

There are important ICT4D regional networks like Chasquinet in Latin America and Acacia in sub-Saharan Africa. South Asia is considered as the international test bed for ICT4D with almost 150 projects in progress. The actors are highly diverse, ranging from rural NGOs to large corporations and projects are of varying scales and sophistication.

Organisations like MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in India and the grameen group in Bangladesh are well known for their pioneering work. But how is VASAT different?

In this context, ICRISAT director-general, William D Dar explains: "Our approach is both bottom-up and top-down and participatory in nature. It is a demand-driven technology generation, assessment, refinement and transfer."

A pilot information hub with connectivity to the internet is set in Addakal village in Andhra Pradesh in partnership with Andhra Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Programme. This hub is operated by a 4,200-member federation of micro-credit societies of rural women, Aadarsha Welfare Society, and is linked to 1,200 rural ICT centres.


Beijing Clinic Treats Online Addicts

Associated Press Writer

July 3, 2005, 9:00 PM EDT

BEIJING -- The 12 teenagers and young adults, some in ripped jeans and baggy T-shirts, sit in a circle, chewing gum and fidgeting as they shyly introduce themselves. "I'm 12 years old," one boy announces with a smile. "I love playing computer games. That's it." "It's been good to sleep" says another, a 17-year-old with spiky hair, now that he's no longer on the computer all day.

The youths are patients at China's first officially licensed clinic for Internet addiction, a downside of the online frenzy that has accompanied the nation's breathtaking economic boom.

"All the children here have left school because they are playing games or in chat rooms everyday," says the clinic's director, Dr. Tao Ran. "They are suffering from depression, nervousness, fear and unwillingness to interact with others, panic and agitation. They also have sleep disorders, the shakes and numbness in their hands."

According to government figures, China has the world's second-largest online population -- 94 million -- after the United States.

While China promotes Internet use for business and education, government officials also say Internet cafes are eroding public morality. Authorities regularly shut down Internet cafes -- many illegally operated -- in crackdowns that also include huge fines for their operators.

State media has also highlighted cases of obsessed Internet gamers, some of whom have flunked out of school, committed suicide or murder. Nonetheless, Internet cafes continue to thrive, with outlets found in even the smallest and poorest of villages. Most are usually packed late into the night.

Dr. Kimberly Young, a Bradford, Pa., clinical psychologist whose 1998 book on Internet addiction has been translated into Chinese, says she's not surprised the Chinese would face problems with Internet overuse.

"They are catching up with a lot of our technology, and certainly at that juncture, are now able to run into some of the same difficulties," Young said.

While treatment programs were virtually nonexistent in the United States a decade ago, she said, dozens of clinics and countless individual therapists such as herself offer counseling and treatment in her country.

Programs are growing elsewhere, too.

Just a few years ago, Young says, she attended a conference in Switzerland where she was the only American out of some 200 academics and clinicians who gathered to address Internet addiction.

Tao's government-owned clinic, which began taking patients in March, occupies the top floor of a two-story building on a quiet, tree-lined street on the sprawling campus of the Beijing Military Region Central Hospital in the heart of the Chinese capital.

A dozen nurses and 11 doctors care for the patients, mostly youths aged 14 to 24 who have lost sleep, weight and friends after countless hours in front of the computer, often playing video games with others online.

Some come voluntarily, while others are checked in by their parents. Many say their online obsessions helped them escape day-to-day stress, especially pressure from parents to excel in school.

Some can't stop playing games, while the older ones tend to be addicted to online chats with the opposite sex, Tao says. Others are fixated on designing violent games.

Tao, a psychiatrist for 20 years who specializes in treating addiction, estimates that up to 2.5 million Chinese suffer from Internet addiction, though others are skeptical.

"As the number of the Netizens grows, the number of the addicted people will grow as well, but we should not worry about the issue too much," says Kuang Wenbo, a professor of mass media at Beijing's Renmin University. "The young men at the age of growing up have their own problems. Even if there was no Internet they will get addicted to other things."

A reporter was allowed to talk to patients at the clinic on condition they not be identified by name.

"I wasn't normal," said a 20-year-old man from Beijing who used to spend at least 10 hours a day in front of the screen playing hack-and-slash games like Diablo.

"In school I didn't pay attention when teachers were talking," he said. "All I could do was think about playing the next game. Playing made me happy, I forgot my problems."

The 12-year-old, a new arrival, spent four days in an Internet cafe, barely eating or sleeping.

A soft-spoken 21-year-old man from northeastern Heilongjiang province who had been in the clinic for 10 days said his addiction had helped him escape from family pressures about his studies.

"I would stay up for 24 hours. I would eat only in front of the computer," he said.

Tao's team has put together a standard diagnostic test to determine whether someone is addicted, then uses a combination of therapy sessions, medication, acupuncture and sports like swimming and basketball to ease patients back into normal lives.

They usually stay 10 to 15 days, at $48 a day -- a high price in China, where the average city dweller's weekly income is just $20.

The routine begins around 6 a.m. and includes sessions on a machine that stimulates nerve impulses with 30-volt charges to pressure points.

Some patients receive a clear fluid through intravenous drips said to "adjust the unbalanced status of brain secretions," according to one nurse. Officials would not give any other details about the medication.

Patients also nap, write diary entries or play cards. Their rooms are sunny, each decorated with artificial flowers, Winnie the Pooh comforters and a 17-inch television.

Tao says the long-term effects of treatment are generally successful, but it's not easy to keep patients from again giving themselves over to Internet temptation.

"It would be hard to give it up completely," said the 20-year-old from Beijing. "I'll take it step-by-step."

Full Story